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If they were better, they were not the means ordained by God, who is sole judge of the means by which He will convey His blessings. Wiser surely would be the counsel which humble Christians would offer, than such vain objections.
The spirit of Naaman's servants showed more true wisdom than their master's foolish and petulant question, “ Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ? may I not wash in them, and be clean ?" No, he could not; it was not the river of Israel, nor those of Damascus, that could cleanse him; but the will and the power of God, ordaining that the river of His chosen land should be the means : and so long as Naaman set up his own passions, and understanding, against that will and power, not all the waters of the world would have cleansed him.
The last case to which I shall refer, and in which we may observe principles and conduct not altogether unlike Naaman’s, is the frequent neglect of the Lord's Supper. The word of God describes us as corrupt and frail beings; as having fallen under the sentence of God's wrath ; as being placed in a world full of dangers and temptations, and having to proceed through a course beset on every side with spiritual and active foes. It teaches, moreover, that when our souls were forfeited through our transgressions, that they were redeemed by the blood of Jesus, who suffered on the cross for our sins; that we still require continual strengthening and support from above, to enable us to secure our final entrance to Christ's kingdom in heaven. It teaches also, that our blessed Saviour, the very night before He was betrayed, instituted a sacramental feast, to be observed, in grateful remembrance of His death and sufferings, and of those inestimable benefits which we thereby receive. It teaches us also, that this festival was never to be neglected so long as we remain on earth; that we are thus to show the Lord's death continually till He come. And, finally, we learn from the same source, that the observance of this sacrament is pressed upon us, not only from motives of gratitude to our crucified Saviour, but also as a means of our receiving continual supplies of that Divine aid, by which alone we can be enabled to contend against our spiritual enemies, or to save ourselves from being betrayed by our own corrupt passions. This sacrament, also, Christians in every age have acknowledged. Yet, my brethren, often has the invitation gone forth in every church, and been neglected by many! O let it not be any longer neglected by those, who may read this complaint, and whose consciences may warn them that they are guilty in this matter.
And if we look at the reasons assigned for this neglect, shall we not sometimes find them of the same stamp as Naaman's? Shall we not find them setting up their notions of what are to be the means and instruments of our salvation, against the exhortations of God's ministers, and the positive ordinances of God's word ? “ I thought,” (said Naaman, though he had been told by a man of God, and a prophet of the Most High, what he was to do,) “ I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean ?”
And the disobedient Christian too will say, he does not see the necessity of receiving the Lord's Supper; that there is this or that circumstance in his case, which he thinks --but which God has not said,—is a sufficient reason for his neglecting it, though Christ himself has said, “This do in remembrance of me,”—“Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” Surely, it will be our wisdom humbly and thankfully to obey the ordinance and will of God, and to listen to the call of His Church. It is no great thing that He has commanded us. He bids us use the means of grace and edification, as easy as that which the prophet enjoined to Naaman: surely, instead of seeking our own devices, or setting up our own thoughts against His, we shall do well to obey.
May these counsels, my brethren, like that of Naaman's servants, direct your hearts, and induce you to render willing obedience to the ordinances of God, and to receive in faith the sacramental
means of grace which He has appointed. And may you, my brethren especially, who are preparing to devote yourselves to God in confirmation, ever remember whose service it is you embrace, and how entirely He demands the obedience of your whole heart, your whole mind, and all your faculties. May you endeavour to carry into effect the promises you take upon yourselves, of renouncing the world and its lusts, of believing all the articles of the Christian faith, of keeping God's holy will and commandments; not forgetting that the Supper of the Lord is appointed by Him as a means of grace and salvation. Let not your own vain imaginations, or the foolish ignorance of others, lead you to set up your understanding against God's commands; but let Christ be with you all in all. Give Him your hearts, and lean not to your own understandings. And may the “ Almighty Lord and everlasting God vouchsafe to direct, sanctify, and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of His laws, and in the works of His commandments; that through His most mighty protection both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ?!
i Collect for the Confirmation Service.
ANANÍAS A WARNING APPLICABLE TO CONFIRMATION.
O LORD, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love ; Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Acts v. 4.
THOU HAST NOT LIED UNTO MEN, BUT UNTŐ GOD.
In the case of Ananias there are two points which must obviously present themselves to our consideration. The one is the terrible indignation of God against falsehood and hypocrisy; and the other what might be the causes of His visiting the sin, in this case, with miraculous punishment.
We find that Ananias, to a certain extent, had complied with a practice arising out of those feelings of brotherly love, which the Gospel peculiarly recommends, and of which, under the circumstances